Mets reliever Dellin Betances expects to be ready for Opening Day after Achilles injury
Betances joined the Mets on a one-year deal this offseason
The New York Mets had a disappointing 2019 season and the bullpen was the single biggest reason. Their relief crew finished with a 4.99 ERA, fifth worst in baseball, and their relievers combined for 0.7 WAR. Only six bullpens performed worse and they all belonged to teams that finished far out of the postseason race.
For the Mets, the key to an improved bullpen is Edwin Diaz and a slimmed down Jeurys Familia righting the ship after disastrous 2019 seasons, first and foremost. The club also added longtime Yankees reliever Dellin Betances on a one-year contract despite an injury-plagued 2019. Shoulder and lat trouble limited Betances to one appearance last year. He struck out both batters he faced.
Betances, 32 next month, is a four-time All-Star who was among the game's best relievers from 2014-18. Then he hurt his shoulder last spring, suffered a setback at midseason, and tore his Achilles when he returned in September. Betances did a little celebratory jump off the mound following a strikeout, which is when he suffered the injury. Here's the video:
That's it. That little hop led to the injury. The Yankees announced Betances suffered a partial Achilles tear soon thereafter and that his season was over. He went into the offseason with significant injury questions. On Tuesday, Betances told reporters the Achilles is doing well and he expects to be ready for Opening Day. From Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News:
"I'll be ready for Opening Day," Betances said on Tuesday. "I'm confident. I put in a lot of work this offseason. A lot of hours to make sure that I can come in ready and I feel good at this point."
Betances added he has already thrown several bullpen sessions. Because it was only a partial Achilles tear, Betances did not require surgery, and instead had to wear a boot for a few weeks. It could take an entire year to recover from a full Achilles tear. A partial tear may only require a few months, and so far things are going well for Betances with his rehab.
Seth Lugo was New York's best reliever last season -- former manager Mickey Callaway often used him for two-inning saves -- though it's unclear how new manager Luis Rojas will handle his bullpen now. Lugo could remain the closer, or Diaz could get the job back, or they could go with a closer-by-committee. Give the Mets a truth serum, and I think they'd tell you this is their ideal bullpen:
- Closer: RHP Edwin Diaz
- Setup: RHP Dellin Betances, RHP Seth Lugo
- Middle: RHP Brad Brach, RHP Robert Gsellman, RHP Jeurys Familia, LHP Justin Wilson
- Long: LHP Steven Matz or RHP Michael Wacha
There's an awful lot of upside in that bullpen. Diaz and Betances spent several years as elite relievers in the not-too-distant past, and Familia and Wilson have been very good at times as well. There's also a lot of risk in that bullpen. Betances was hurt last year, Diaz and Familiar were awful, and Gsellman battled injuries as well.
Spring training is a time for optimism, so for now the Mets will feel great about the way everyone is throwing, and be encouraged by Betances as he returns from his injuries. Given their powerhouse rotation and strong lineup -- and what we saw last season -- the bullpen may be the only thing between the Mets reaching the postseason or grinding through another disappointing year in 2020.
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